If there was anything that rocked the 2017 Sundance Film Festival more than the snow — by one account, 55 inches fell during the 11-day event, including 20 inches in one day — it was the election of President Donald Trump.
Sure, a renewed sense of political activism energized the fest. But the director of the documentary “The New Radical” had to reshoot his film’s ending. Another documentary was recut to include footage of the inauguration. And a third, “Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time,” was a late addition to the schedule.
You can experience the last of those, from the warmth and comfort of your own home, when it debuts at 9 p.m. Friday on Showtime.
Culled from thousands of hours of footage that began with the start of the campaign cycle, “Trumped” is an offshoot of the premium channel’s weekly documentary series “The Circus,” hosted by political analysts Mark Halperin and John Heilemann and political adviser Mark McKinnon.
It begins with Hillary and Bill Clinton being greeted at 3:45 a.m. on Election Day by throngs of supporters at the airport in White Plains, New York. When her campaign’s chairman, Leon Podesta, is asked what a loss would feel like, he struggles to come up with the words, as though the thought had never occurred to him. “You know, I think in some ways, it’ll be, just, I don’t know. It’s sort of hard to even kind of contemplate that.”
From there, “Trumped” goes back to recycle many of the election season’s greatest hits. Trump’s awkward escalator ride to announce his campaign. His pledge to build the wall. The mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski. The tiny hands. The increasing violence at his campaign events. His saying, about a protester during a Las Vegas rally, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” The feud with debate moderator Megyn Kelly. And, of course, the leaked “Access Hollywood” tapes that caught Trump bragging about grabbing women.
The reaction to those tapes gives the documentary its greatest insight into the mind of a Trump supporter. “He has the power. He has the prestige,” one unidentified man says. “Why wouldn’t you take a little advantage?” Another backer, this one a woman who looks primed and ready for a “Honey Boo Boo” reboot, stands by her man, declaring, “I’m not votin’ for the pope!”
Outside a rally, a blond coed reveals why she’s voting for Trump. “I mean, we grew up with ‘The Apprentice.’ I mean, I remember watching that TV show. Like, that’s when he had me.”
By that rationale, shouldn’t Jeff Probst be the president? After all, “Survivor” was more popular than “The Apprentice” or even “The Celebrity Apprentice.” (That isn’t fake news, by the way. Although back in 2011, I received an emailed PDF of one of my columns, over which Trump had written how hugely popular his show was, simply because I’d jokingly referred to it in passing as the “People Who Seem Vaguely Familiar Apprentice.”)
If there’s such a thing as “too soon” for a documentary, “Trumped” would certainly qualify. The wounds from the campaign are still too raw for more than half the country. For them, hearing Trump’s remarks after a disturbance at a rally in Dayton, Ohio — “And to think I had such an easy life. What do I need this for, right?” — just may leave them running headfirst into a wall.
Finally, on election night as the votes begin to tilt Trump’s way, confidence turns to shock and disbelief — not just on the faces of Clinton’s supporters, but on those of the experts as well.
“Tonight and this election will be in the history books,” Halperin concludes, “and it will never be fully explained.”